I need you, but I want you more…

I tweeted earlier that if Meatloaf were in a Dublin concert, he might have sung – “I want EU, I need EU, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love EU, but don’t be sad, cos 2 out of 3 ain’t bad”…. that is another story for another day.

“Need” and “want” are sometimes confused, and easily done when the economy is growing strongly.  The recession and its effects have thrown into sharp relief the difference between the two.

Marx said: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs“.  For socialism, it is “To each according to his contribution (what he produces)“.

There is I believe consensus that the current welfare system is bloated, too expensive and perhaps over-generous in limited cases.  It has created benefit traps in this country where there are over a million non-working households.  The Coalition wants a reformed system which “makes work pay”, which encourages people who can work to contribute, but discourages those who can but do not wish to work.  There are obviously people who cannot work (or work full time) because of childcare responsibilities, old age or long term disabilities, their needs should be supported where appropriate & they should not be penalised or frowned upon.

Those exceptions aside, it seems to me that the basic principle of Coalition’s proposed welfare reforms must be right and what’s more, it satisfies the communism & socialism ideals of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs/contribution”.  I don’t think Marx would have envisaged a prolonged state of affairs where some people receive but not give.

Ultimately I believe welfare should be a balance between what taxpayers should fund and what welfare recipients should receive, and to what extent should the former fund the latter’s “wants & aspirations” once the latter’s “needs” have been satisfied.  There will be debates over the coming months about what the “needs” are – the original Bevan “safety net”, Bevan Plus,  or those under the bigger welfare state we are more used to.

As for aspirations, I believe they should be kick-started by the State for the benefit of everyone – give people a foot on the ladder so to speak, the question is how far up the ladder?  Tories would ideologically say the first couple of steps on the ladder before people are left to their own devices, but Labour/LibDems might say a few more steps up.  It goes without saying that before people are freed from welfare, there should be opportunities for them to take advantage of.

Apart from the welfare system, I believe the State has also grown too big in the last decade, not just in relation to how much of the national economy it funds (over 50%!), but also “culturally” – to the point that a parent said to me yesterday:

… why the local council can’t organise activities for teenagers during school holidays…

I was left speechless, I know this could be an extreme example but it nonetheless illustrates the point that some people want the State to provide answers to problems which should be the responsibility of the individual.

Somehow, imperceptibly, “need” has shifted to “want” both financially and culturally during the economic growth spurts of the last decade, the State has provided for the “needs” AND satisfied the “wants”.  That has trapped some people rather than empowered them.

More details of the welfare reforms will emerge in the coming weeks and months, the time has come for all good men to come to the aid of the country, the State should provide the “need”, but the individual should earn the “want”.

The Coalition is on the right path to redress the balance between “need” and “want” in the welfare system, get rid of benefit traps and change the culture of “state dependency”.

It should stick to the path, however treacherous it may be.

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About Art Li

Briefly, I am a lawyer, keen amateur photographer, dog lover and politics junkie but not a member of any party. Full details on Biography page. Follow me on Twitter @Art_Li.
This entry was posted in Coalition Government, Politics, Public Spending Cuts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I need you, but I want you more…

  1. KrustyAllslopp says:

    Hi Art, from reading your post here and your bio you are clearly an intelligent and compassionate person. You are coming from a very different background and set of circumstances than my own and I can see from your post that you are definitely not a rabid reactionary right winger!! But like me, a politics junkie!

    It is maybe, too complex to go into here so I’ll put some thoughts down and maybe come back to the debate, but I think your thinking is a little muddled regarding the role of the State, the role and responsibilities of the individual member of Society and the function of the taxation system and it’s funding of the fabric of Society and the caring, support and sustenance of those who cannot fend for themselves.

    The most obvious abuse of the Welfare State and what has created confusion between ‘need’ and the perception of ‘want’ is not the individual, but the neo-liberal project of the last 30-odd years. Neo-liberalism has been determined to appropriate the post-war collective taxation and labour of the majority, which created for example, the massive housing construction boom and decent homes for all citizens, with protections in place such as the Mother and Baby rule, which kept families/communities cohesive for successive generations and the ability for tenancies, to remain within families, if necessary. Social Housing was gradually turned into the housing of last resort, securities for working people and their families/communities such as the Mother and Baby rule were abolished and gradually there was a distillation of communities and the spectre of aspiration and acquisition was introduced which was so successfully exploited by Thatcher and the Right to Buy. The goal of which was to deliberately undermine the level of public housing available, but to divert money, taxpayers money, into Thatcher’s pet projects and tax cuts for the wealthy, by preventing Local Authorities from reinvesting the profits of selling off of public/social housing into repairs, maintenance and new housing stock. This irrevocably divided working class communities and created the real start of the much maligned ‘underclass’.

    However, what made the situation worse and what we now see in the catastrophic events since last week is the tandem destruction of British industry, undermining of State Education and the turning of our nation into the world’s largest money-laundering paradise and tax haven for the very wealthiest people and corporations, serviced by an nation of once proud and skilled people forced into becoming a nation of customer services automatons, the rest, no longer of use, diverted onto benefits and Incapacity to hide the true horror of the effects of the violent application of neo-liberalism.

    I want to say more, however, I’m knackered and maybe you have a response to my initial thoughts.

    Cheers, Krusty Allslopp 🙂

    • Art Li says:

      Thanks Ms Allslopp, you seemed to have skipped from Thatcher to last week, your thoughts on the 20 odd years since Thatcher went?

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